A new era for the Eastbourne IT First Eagles began in emphatic style as the new-look Sussex side stormed to a 53-40 National Trophy victory over newly installed local rivals, the Kent Kings at Arlington stadium on Good Friday evening.
As the dust settled on a hotly contested meeting, one that threw up a number of talking points, it was pretty much all plus points for the Sussex side as they made it a winning opening to their tenure in the sport’s National League, writes Kevin Ling.
Indeed, in the build-up to their opener much of the narrative surrounded the debut of highly prized and similarly rated Bradley Wilson-Dean.
In the event, the New Zealander lived up to the hype and then some, only being denied a maiden paid maximum by mechanical gremlins as he led from visitor’s top scorer Ben Morley in heat 15.
Equally all eyes would surely have been trained on Kelsey Dugard, representing the fourth generation of the family to see regular track action.
Again, a fine performance was rewarded with three barnstorming wins to kick off his Eagles career.
All smiles so far, but lest we forget, Marc Owen offered the Sussex fans yet another reason to be cheerful as he topped the score chart with a finely crafted paid 13-point haul, himself only missing out on a potential paid maximum following a ragged gate in his final outing, while Dan Greenwood, guesting in place of flu ridden skipper David Mason also put in a shift with a double figure tally.
Richard Andrews improved with every ride, and with some exciting outside dashes completed his night sharing a brace of 5-1s with Dugard and Greenwood respectively while Georgie Wood also impressed, helping to kick off Eagles total of six 5-1s throughout the night by following home his fellow reserve in heat two to install Eastbourne into an early advantage.
For the home side only Danny Warwick didn’t seem to relish the conditions and enjoy the best of nights but experience dictates that there is yet plenty to come from the 31-year-old who stood in as skipper for the absent Mason.
As for the visitors, Ben Morley would prove their stand out rider with four heat victories to his name but elsewhere, save for a Kings’ 8-1 in the seventh race, it was pretty much all about the Eagles as they put themselves in the driving seat with up five straight advantages from heats two to six, opening up a 25-11, a margin that put them on course to win comfortably by the close.
New Zealander Bradley-Wilson Dean lived up to the hype and then some
Morley drew first blood for the Kent outfit, anchoring a first race 4-2 and further, similar successes followed in both the eleventh, with Danno Verge and heat thirteen, shared with the lively James Shanes before a closing 5-1 as Aaron Baseby and Morley teamed up to ensure that the Eagles didn’t have things all their own way, though the latter result largely came courtesy of Wilson-Dean’s mechanical malfunction.
Danny Ayres was Kent’s 6-point exponent, following a tactical ride success in the seventh, Baseby riding shotgun ahead of Wood and Warwick to slash the home advantage to 7-points (26-19) but a consecutive sequence of three 5-1s as Dugard and Andrews, Owen and Wilson-Dean (the pair sharing no fewer than three of Eagles six maximums), then Greenwood and Andrews, put the home side well and truly back in control with the scores moving to 41-22 with five heats remaining.
Though Kent finished the stronger from a points perspective as the match moved towards a conclusion, there was never any prospect of them overturning Eagles 19-point lead.
At the close there were only positives to draw from the night’s action, a healthy Bank Holiday attendance in spite of the inclement weather, a match played out at a rapid pace to keep the supporters entertained and importantly a home victory to celebrate as the Sussex side embarked on their quest for honours in season 2015.
Eagles : Marc Owen 12+1(5), Bradley Wilson-Dean 10+2(5), Dan Greenwood (Guest for David Mason) 10(4), Kelsey Dotard 9(4), Richard Andrews 5+2(4), Georgia Wood 4+1(4), Danny Warwick 3(4).
Kings : Ben Morley 12(5), Aaron Base by 8+2(5), Danny Ayres 8(4), James Shames 6(4), Danna Verge 4(4), Jamie Cousins 1+1(4), Adam Sheppard 1(4).